I decided to get back into a FW tank after switching to salterwater/reef ten years ago. I wanted a discus tank, but quickly decided that I also wanted live plants as well (plastic plants just don't do it for me, lol).
So, I setup a 20 gallon tank with two small discus and quickly decided that wasn't big enough once the plants started growing in. I recently setup a 46 gallon bowfront.
Here's the setup:
-46 gallon AGA bowfront
-36" Coralife T5 light fixture (they work great on reef tanks and and have strong PAR readings at the gravel bed, so I thought I'd try them on a planted tank).
-Fluval 404 canister filter (I'm glad I saved it from my reef tank when I added a sump). I have a sponge prefilter to prevent the intake from being covered in leaves, debris, etc.
-Penguin powerhead with sponge prefilter
-Nutrafin CO2 reactor (I was going to do DIY, but I got this cheap and it has a nifty bubble diffuser).
-3" gravel substrate that I supplement with Flourish tabs.
-250 watt submersible heater (I'm wondering if a substrate heater would be better?)
-4 discus: two red turquoise, one blue diamond, and one pigeon blood
-15 neon tetras
-2 neon cardinals
-2 glowlight tetras (damn, I'm colorblind and I thought I was netting neon tetras, lol)
I know many people have planted discus tanks, but it's challenging to create an environment that is optimal for discus and plants. My main concern is meeting the discus's needs and having plants that will thrive as well. So, I've tried to pick out plants that will tolerate the warmer temps and lower pH under moderate lighting. I should state that I work part-time at a LFS, but I was hired for my saltwater/reef knowledge, not FW planted tanks, LOL. My co-worker is a biology/horticulture major, so I had him help me pick out plants.
I should also say that I've been in saltwater for years now, so I have to stop assuming that I'd filter my planted tank like I would a reef tank. Nitrates and phosphates aren't bad! Right now, my nitrates are at 10 ppm, but I'll have to keep an eye on that level as my plants grow and strip it from the system. If the fish waste doesn't provide enough, I'll have to dose it I guess.
Speaking of assumptions, I guess I need to remove the carbon from my Fluval. There are four chambers, and I use filter floss, peat granules, carbon, and ceramic bio-rings. I'm running peat because I want to keep the pH at about 6.5 for my discus. Fortunately, the peat doesn't leach too many tanins in the water.
Here's my issue: my tapwater is awful. I have a TDS reading of 465 from the tap, and it's very hard (much too hard for discus from what I've read). Fortunately, I have a RO/DI unit that I use for my reef tanks, so I've been using RO water (I didn't run it through the DI filter because I assumed I wouldn't need a TDS of zero). I use Kent's RO-Right to replenish trace elements and Kent's pH Control-Minus. I read that using RO water alone without any buffer would cause too much of a pH fluctuation since I have plants and I add CO2 to the tank.
But...and a big but, I've also read that RO water isn't necessarily good for planted tanks because it strips too many trace elements from the water. When I setup this 46 gallon, I did use about 10 gallons of tap water, and the rest was RO. My pH is 6.7, and it's remained stable (I don't know if the peat is working, or if it's even worth it to use it). I really don't like the idea of using tap water because the TDS is so high and it's full of lime/calcium. I've had to replace my tank housing my reef because I was lazy and used tap to top off too many times (before I got a TDS meter and realized just how horrible it was) and I ended up with nasty mineral deposits on the glass that I could not clean off. I'm worried that if I use too much tap water on my 46, that I'll have the same problem with the glass hazing. Since I have the RO/DI filter already, is it ok to use that with a pH buffer to keep it from fluctuating?
So, here are some pics. I'm sorry they're not the best quality. I finally figured out how to use my damn camera to get decent pics of my reef tank, and now I'm trying to figure out how to get decent pics of my planted tank, lol.
Full tank shot:
My discus (the pigeon blood is hiding in the corner):
A close-up of one of my red turquoise:
If you see anything that looks amiss, please let me know. I'm still trying to learn the names of all the plants in my tank (my co-worker spouted off all the names while we were bagging them, but I have the memory of a tetra.
I have 14 different plant species right now, and I've tried to arrange the taller plants in the background and small plants in the foreground while trying to create an assymmetrical aquascaping. Any feedbacks and suggestions are great. Thanks!